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A stunning 3D reconstruction of a Pictish fort has been revealed which brings an ancient Scottish settlement back to life.

The remote fort dates back approximately 1,700 years and sits atop a 20-foot-high sea stack and was first excavated in 2015.

Analysis of the outcrop found it was likely cut off at high tide and researchers at the University of Aberdeen visualised what it would look like if still attached to the mainland.

It was found on top of the Dunnicaer sea stack close to Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, and appears to have been built with stone imported from elsewhere in the country.

Stunning 3D reconstruction shows what a 'Pictish fort' near the ruins of Dunnotar Castle may have looked like more than 1,500 years ago


Remains were found on top of the Dunnicaer sea stack near Stonehaven

Remote fort dates back 1,700 years and was abandoned in the 5th century

Site is near the ruins of Dunnotar Castle which was an important Pictish town

Was found atop a 'sea stack' which is a 20ft tall rocky outcrop and only accessible with specialised climbing equipment
By

Joe Pinkstone For Mailonline
31 May 2019

A stunning 3D reconstruction of a Pictish fort has been revealed which brings an ancient Scottish settlement back to life.

The remote fort dates back approximately 1,700 years and sits atop a 20-foot-high sea stack and was first excavated in 2015.

Analysis of the outcrop found it was likely cut off at high tide and researchers at the University of Aberdeen visualised what it would look like if still attached to the mainland.

It was found on top of the Dunnicaer sea stack close to Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, and appears to have been built with stone imported from elsewhere in the country.

The site is near the ruins of Dunnotar Castle which is an important Pictish settlement in Scotland's history in its own right.


Analysis of the outcrop found it was likely cut off from the mainland at high tide and researchers at the University of Aberdeen visualised what it would look like if still attached to the mainland (pictured)

The video illustrates what it would look like if the settlement had never become separated from the mainland.

The archaeologists recruited a team of experienced mountaineers to scale Dunnicaer's sheer drops.

Partial remains of houses were found on the cliff edge, which shows that much of the settlement had fallen into the sea.

Remnants of turf and timber structures with preserved floor layers and hearths were also discovered.

It also suggests space was at a premium as some hearths were built on top of one another.

Evidence of Roman pottery and glass was also found, indicating the inhabitants had strong connections to the empire.

It appears the site was eventually abandoned in the late fourth or early fifth century and the population migrated to nearby Dunnotar.

Dunnotar swelled in numbers and became regarded as the elite centre of Pictish society by the seventh century.

It was lost for centuries as the vertical drops and jagged cliffs made it unassailable.

A group of youths from Stonehaven conquered the stack in 1832 and found a host of decorated and carved Pictish symbol stones.

The rebellious teens threw some of them into the sea and the priceless artefacts had to be recovered at a later date.

Pictish symbol stones are a unique tradition of carving that may have denoted high status names.

The radiocarbon dates for the settlement suggest that these stones may be amongst the earliest in the carving tradition.

Professor Gordon Noble from the University oif Aberdeen, said in 2015: 'Being youths, they did what youths do and threw them down into the sea.


The video illustrates what it would look like if the settlement had never become separated from the mainland. The archaeologists recruited a team of experienced mountaineers to scale Dunnicaer's sheer drops



Remnants of turf and timber structures with preserved floor layers and hearths were also discovered. It also suggests space was at a premium as some of the hearths were built on top of one another


'One of them returned later to collect one of the stones and since then a few others have been found. They had rough designs carved into them.'

When Dr Noble and his team from the Northern Picts project conducted a five day excavation on the top of the site, they uncovered the remains of what appears to be a rampart wall.

They also found post holes and the remains of a hearth that appears to have been within a house built inside the fort. They even found charcoal still in the stone fire place.

Mr Noble said there may have been a settlement built on the land behind the fort, although as the Picts largely built their homes from wood, it would be hard to find many remains.

Professor Gordon Noble said more recently: 'We always knew that Dunnicaer was a site of major significance but carrying out an archaeological survey was hampered by the inaccessibility of the site.

'Thanks to the help of mountaineering experts, we were able to carry out some extreme archaeology!'


The small fort was discovered on top of Dunnicaer sea stack (shown above) and would have given the inhabitants a strong defensive position



The Dunnicaer sea stack sits just off the east coast of Scotland close to Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire


The researchers also found evidence for post holes (above) that were used in the fort ramparts during the dig in 2015

In order to reach the site, the team had to employ the services of professional rock climber Duncan Patterson, who climbed up the sea stack and put ropes in place.

'It is plausible that, although already in an eroded state, the outcrop would have been significantly bigger in the time of the Picts, making it a suitable site for a settlement,' he added.

'This video helps to fully visualise how the fort may have looked in the fourth century which we think helps to further bring to life the lives of the Picts, who are so poorly understood because of the lack of historical records.

'We're so glad we have been able to do the dig on Dunnicaer at this time. Coastal erosion is a huge threat to archaeological sites of this kind and the remaining stack will continue to erode.'

The Picts were a group of tribes that lived in eastern and northern Scotland.

Although best known for the carved stones and jewellery they left behind, it is thought that they were farmers but also engaged in sea raids.

The archaeologists discovered the fort on Dunnicaer after following up reports that Pictish stones had been found there when some local youths climbed up the sea stack.

WHAT WAS DUNNOTAR CASTLE?


Dunnotar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress on the northeastern coast of Scotland.

It is about 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Stonehaven.

The surviving buildings are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries.

It is thought the population swelled when the sea stack of Dunnicaer became separated from the mainland and the inhabitants either bolstered the ranks of Dunnotar or founded it.

A Scottish force under William Wallace captured the castle in 1297.

The English garrison inside took refuge in the church, but Wallace burned the church with the soldiers inside, and destroyed the castle.

It also had visits from famed monarchs Mary Queen of Scots and James VI.

The castle slowly fell into disrepair and an effort to save its remains was mounted in 1925.

WHO WERE THE PICTS?

The Picts were a collection of tribes lived in what is today eastern and northern Scotland during the Late Iron Age and early Medeival periods from around 270-900AD.

They formed a tribal confederation whose political motivations derived from a need to ally against common enemies such as the Britons and the Romans.

They have long been seen as fearless savages who fought off Rome's toughest legions and refused to surrender their freedoms to live in conventional society.

However, this wild reputation might well be undeserved.

They actually built a sophisticated culture in northern Scotland and were more advanced than their Anglo-Saxon rivals in many respects.


Mel Gibson's blue face paint in Braveheart (pictured) is a nod to the Pictish tradition of body-paint

As a people, research has shown they were sophisticated, hard-working and skilled in many ways.

We are increasingly finding that these 'lost' peoples - who have somewhat disappeared from history - were capable of great art and built beautiful monasteries.

The Roman name for the people - Picti - means 'painted people'. It's not known what they called themselves.

Mel Gibson's blue face paint in Braveheart is a nod to the Pictish tradition of body-paint - but the real Picts fought stark naked, and there are records of them doing so up until the 5th Century.

The habit of fighting naked, especially in the cold Scottish climate, didn't harm the tribe's reputation for ferocity.

Picts held the territory north of the Firth of Forth in Scotland - and were one of the reasons even heavily armoured Roman legions could not conquer Scotland.

The Picts mysteriously disappear from written history around 900AD.

Experts suggest that they likely merged with southern Scots, who already had a written history by that time, and the two clans' histories combined.


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